“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” -Nelson Mandela
Without education there can be no sustainable development. Education is the key to unlocking the potential of millions of young Malawians, currently trapped in poverty. Knowing this, VIP works to empower students in Malawi throughout their entire educational lives, from preschool all the way through university.
Our education initiatives start even before school officially begins in Malawi. Unfortunately, Malawi does not have a nation-wide pre-school program. This is a huge problem as studies show that human brain development and growth is most rapid and vulnerable from conception to age 5, making early childhood the most critical period of human development. That is why VIP is partnering with, supplying, and helping to organize local Community Based Childcare Centers (CBCCs). CBCCs are run by community members and serve as de-facto preschools to help ensure that children develop properly and receive the mental, social and physical stimulation they need to reach their full potential in life. VIP supports 15 CBCCs, which educate and nurture roughly 800 preschool children.
Primary schools in Malawi are almost all hopelessly underfunded, understaffed and overcrowded. Children are often forced to sit on the ground in classes of well over 50 students, some classes even number in the hundreds. When it rains puddles form on the ground and water leaks onto the heads of the students. Teacher and student absenteeism are both extremely high. To counter this educational crisis, VIP has invested heavily in primary schools in our impact area. In partnership with the Thorneycroft Family, VIP has built the Chimpeni School from the ground up. Where 8 years ago there was only bush, there now stands one of the most beautiful primary schools in all of Malawi. In a recent government assessment of all 35 primary schools in the Zomba district, the Chimpeni School came out as the number one ranked school! Building on the incredible success of the Chimpeni School we have now undertaken the rebuilding of the crumbling Sakata Primary School. The school was in such a bad state of disrepair that powerful storms at the end of last year ripped the roofs off of one of the school blocks, forcing the students to attend class outside under a tree. With two brand new school blocks at Sakata built by VIP last year, and three more under construction this year, Sakata School will soon be as beautiful as Chimpeni School.
In addition to brand new classrooms we have also built teacher houses at both primary schools. By providing houses on campus we cut down drastically on teacher absenteeism and attract more qualified candidates who are lured to the schools by the perks of large houses and no commute. VIP and our partners, especially the Thorneycroft family, have constructed 5 teacher houses at Chimpeni School and 3 at Sakata School with more on the way. Almost all of these houses were provided with solar panels and lights this past summer, allowing teacher’s to work into the night and allowing the schools to continue to attract and retain top teaching talent.
VIP has been providing scholarships for talented high school aged students for years. Our staff identifies talented and hardworking students from a young age, and if they do well enough on their examinations, VIP provides them with a scholarship so that they can attend top government secondary schools, which, coming from the villages, they would not be able to afford on their own. While we will continue to provide scholarships and bursaries for talented students in the Zomba region, we are now raising the funds to build a brand new secondary school in the heart of our impact area! This school will allow hundreds of promising students to attend secondary school, who would otherwise be forced to drop out and defer their dreams of a better life indefinitely.
Finally, thanks to Phil and Gayle Anderson and the Anderson College Fund, VIP is paying for several students from our impact area to attend university in Malawi! One of these students, Emma Chingola, is in her second year at Malawi Catholic University, where she is pursuing a degree in education. Once she gets her degree she will reinvest it in the community, coming back to the villages where she grew up to continue VIP’s mission to improve education throughout Malawi.